Supporting someone with an eating disorder

The following tips are a general set of recommendations on how to support your son or daughter if you are concerned they may be experiencing an eating disorder.


Let them know you accept them as they are.

Be there for them

Let them know you are concerned, are there to listen and won’t judge – whatever they have to say.

Be mindful

There may be underlying issues and they may be scared to acknowledge there’s a problem.

Don’t try to ‘fix’ your son or daughter

Try not to tell them to stop what they are doing. They may be using the eating disorder as a way of coping and preventing them from using their way of coping may make things worse.

Model behaviour

It’s important to model appropriate eating behaviour, this includes eating regular meals and eating a balanced diet. Although it can be difficult with hectic schedules, try to ensure you sit down and have your meals together as a family.

Overcoming an eating disorder often requires both medical and psychological help.

Your GP is usually the best place to start when seeking help for an eating disorder and plays an important role in diagnosing it. They can then refer on to specialist services, if necessary.

Treatment for eating disorders

Treatment options may include counselling or psychotherapy, nutritional counselling/dietary advice, psychiatric assessment, support groups and, in some cases, hospitalisation and medication.

Bodywhys is the Eating Disorders Association of Ireland and is a great place to start when looking for information and support for someone with an eating disorder.

Recovery from an eating disorder begins with:

  • an acknowledgement the eating disorder is a problem
  • working to build up a strong sense of self and a new, healthy way of coping that does not need the eating disorder to feel safe.

It requires working on underlying issues, building self-esteem, and learning to manage and express feelings, as well as addressing the physical and nutritional aspects of the disorder.

Recovery takes great courage and commitment.

Much sensitivity, compassion, respect, understanding and patience will be needed by those around them (family, friends, G.P., and other members of the treatment team) if someone is to be successfully encouraged and supported on their journey towards recovery.

Read more about supports for eating disorders


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